The "faggot in a hat" (well, he pointed to himself when he sang it in concert) hosts a tour of 13 country music obscurities, and it isn't just because I hadn't heard of a single one that 13 Hillbilly Giants sounds so fresh. About half are novel enough to withstand even the most banal rendition. But Fulks' uncorked enthusiasm is the (re)making of Jimmie Logsdon's "I Want to Be Mama'd" (complete with crybaby Oedipal dilemma), or of The Carlisles' "Knot Hole," where he does a terrific Peter Stampfel impersonation. He never condescends, even when he maintains Jean Shepard's gender in her "Act Like a Married Man." And, for some reason, the recitative that brings Wagoner/Parton's evil-when-you-listen-hard "Jeannie's Afraid of the Dark" to a close is the best vocal of his career (do poetry slams beckon him? or just Leonard Cohen's throne?).
The tradition-bucking Couples in Trouble should have provided an elegant counterpoint. Instead, it's bogged down in foreshortened structures and art-rock shifts in tone, its feel more Guided by Voices than Bob Wills. The only couple-in-trouble in evidence here is Fulks and his audience, "many of whom don't listen to much country," as Fulks admits in the liner notes to 13 Hillbilly Giants. If Couples in Trouble is a sop to those people, then perhaps Fulks should teach history full-time.
[Note: As for the ratings, Inside: 13 Hillbilly Giants gets the "7," while Couples In Trouble a "5."]